Last update 7/8/2011 5:00:00 PM (GMT+7)

Philippines: Not allow bigger countries to run roughshod over

VietNamNet Bridge - Filipino President Benigno S.C. Aquino III said he had directed Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario to resolve disputes in the East Sea in his upcoming visit to China.

“One of the main topics would be the West Philippine Sea (East Sea). That’s the essence of diplomacy. Settle the differences through talking rather than any other means and that is actually enshrined in the Constitution. So he will endeavor to have discussions on how to resolve this issue,” said Mr. Aquino, in an interview.

Citing the importance of engaging in a dialogue, he said that his office is fixing the date for a state visit to China where he will personally meet with his counterparts and settle the dispute diplomatically.

“Perhaps we will come to an understanding. We can’t ignore each other when lives are at stake,” said Mr. Aquino. “Barring any unforeseen circumstances, [the state visit] should happen this year.”

As to whether the President will raise the unidentified fighter jet that recently flew low in the East Sea and intimidated Filipino fishermen, Mr. Aquino said he first has to know details of the incident.

“The last report was two unidentified planes that were in an intercept course with two of our patrols. I will have to get information with regard to that incident,” said Mr. Aquino.

In earlier interviews, Mr. Aquino had said he will report several incidents of incursion into Philippine territory to the United Nations, and will also raise the matter during his China visit.

The President has been consistent in his position that the Philippines should protect its national sovereignty, including maritime interests, using a “rules-based system for a peaceful, fair, advantageous dialogue, moving towards a resolution that is beneficial for all.”

“No one wants a scuffle but that does not mean that we’ll allow bigger countries to run roughshod over us,” said Mr. Aquino.

“If we allow ourselves to be bullied maybe the next Filipino generation will cram themselves in one island. If we allow ourselves to be shoved aside, maybe tomorrow our 7,100 islands will just be two digits. It’s not just for others to just take what is ours.”

Mr. Aquino is adamant in talking with other claimant countries to present a united front on the issue, and said that the Philippines will continue to honor its international commitments.

However, the President clarified that foreign policy for the Philippines -- even in accepting or providing help to treaty ally United States -- is still geared towards what is advantageous to the Philippines.

Johanna Paola D. Poblete (bworldonline)